Sometimes a team just needs shots to fall its way.
Despite being up by one with 1:32 left to go, the Mingus Union High School boys basketball team was unable to hold on in a wire-to-wire matchup against visiting Higley High School, losing 81-76 on Tuesday, Dec. 19.
The No. 17 Marauders [5-3, 2-1 Grand Canyon] led 43-35 at halftime, but down the stretch their shots did not fall and they got into foul trouble, which gave the Knights [6-5, 0-1 Desert Sky] free throws to ice the game.
“They came down, they hit a couple tough shots. It was a good basketball game,” Marauders head coach Dave Beery said. “I don’t really feel a huge fault in our game that caused the loss, they’re a pretty talented team .... I thought both teams played really well, they beat us.
“I’m real proud of the way we competed. They’ve got some real elite athletes on that team and I thought we outworked them for most of the game.”
In what was a physical game inside, Mingus played a strong first half. It grabbed rebounds, drove the lane and put away second-chance opportunities against the Knights, including the duo of rising sophomore forwards in 6-foot-8-inch Jason Harris and 6-foot-10-inch Shon Robinson.
Marauders senior forward Michael Bryan hit a three-pointer to open a 9-3 lead before senior forward Martin Soria converted a Higley turnover to make it 11-4 in the first quarter.
The Knights went on a run, as Robinson blocked a Chase Saczalski jumper from behind, received the long outlet and threw down a one-handed dunk to pull within one at 13-12. Even though Saczalski, a junior guard, came back with a triple, Higley junior guard Zachary Scheerhorn hit one himself to put the visitors up 17-16 at the quarter’s end.
Mingus’ best quarter was the second. Junior guard Chaz Taylor had 13 points of his team-high 19 and secured a number of rebounds to limit the Knights’ possessions.
Taylor scored six straight points to regain a 24-20 lead, two on an up-and-under finish at the rim in transition and four
free throws. Three consecutive fouls were called against Higley on box-outs during Mingus free throw attempts, resulting in an extra three points.
Minutes later, Soria put away consecutive second-chance tries and Taylor hit a three to give the Marauders their largest lead at 40-27 with 1:15 to go in the half. But Higley reeled them in before halftime.
“We were running, they were tired, they weren’t working as hard as we were. We did a good job for the most part rebounding the ball,” Beery said. “Actually I thought the last two minutes or minute and a half of the second quarter we played really poorly and didn’t finish the quarter.”
Both teams came out of the locker room in a zone defense. After made baskets Mingus played a full court zone and trap. The Knights broke it a number of times, and consecutive and-1 plays for Harris cut the lead to 46-44.
Higley took a short-lived lead on a triple. Mingus continued to play strong near the rim.
Junior forward Colton Sorensen and Bryan finished two putbacks off of turnovers, Bryan got to the charity stripe after a Taylor offensive rebound, Soria scored on a putback, and Bryan hit two more free throws after Harris was whistled for a technical foul.
Following a Bryan putback and a goaltend against the Knights, Higley junior guard Blake Warren hit a three with less than five seconds left, and Mingus led just 60-57.
Saczalski hit a three to open the final frame, but soon after committed the team’s seventh foul, putting the Knights in the bonus the rest of the way.
Both Harris and Robinson got going, too, combining for 27 second-half points. Harris had a handful of easy finishes inside and Robinson hit two triples from the same corner in key moments, first to tie it at 65 and again to go up 70-68. He also hit twice from the elbow, and Mingus was forced to take a timeout.
Bryan hit a three and a turnaround jumper to go up 73-72. Another Warren three made it 77-73 Higley. Taylor hit a three to breathe new life into the crowd, but with just over 30 ticks left.
Four Higley free throws sentenced the game.
“It’s a loss where we learned a lot about ourselves; good things about ourselves. Sometimes you get losses where you learn bad things about yourself; I think we learned ‘Hey, we compete with these athletes we can compete with anybody.’”
Mingus beat Raymond S. Kellis High School 67-34 the night before. It now enters the heart of region play, resuming at 7 p.m. Jan. 5, at Flagstaff High School.